Grizz Gaming: Accepting the End Game

And then it ends. Just like that.

An entire year of working seven days a week—of scouting, of interviewing, of drafting, of building a team, of making calls, of trying to anticipate problems and confronting them before they fester, of scrimmaging and scrimmaging and scrimmaging and scrimmaging, of watching film, of creating content, of paperwork, of making sure every detail is taken care of, and doing it all while navigating a global pandemic. You’re up to your neck in it, and then it all ends. Just like that.

A few days ago in Dallas, season four of Grizz Gaming came to a disappointing halt with a loss in the NBA 2K League playoffs. Grizz Gaming had our best season in franchise history, finishing with an 18-10 regular season record and as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. But then the rug got yanked out from under us.

Seasons have fixed end points—that’s literally what defines a season. They go from pole to pole, from one randomly selected date to another, but there is an arc to them, and we ride that curve and write our own narrative as best we can. For Grizz Gaming, we entered this season with one goal: Make the playoffs. We’d been close, oh so close, but had never gotten over that hump.

This year, however, we did it. We made the postseason, and we won our first game, then lost games two and three, ending our story. We were close in both of those last two games, down single digits in each contest, but we couldn’t narrow the gaps. What went wrong? Plenty. There isn’t one thing I could point to, and to be blunt, some of that blame belongs at my size thirteen Space Hippies, as well. We all could have been better. Because now it’s over. Just like that.

Vandi and Spartan celebrating

And it hurts, it hurts a lot. I wanted to give my guys a quick talk on the bus ride back to the hotel after our elimination, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get the words out without my voice breaking. I don’t know if people understand is what a grind this league is, both physically and mentally. Sure, we are just playing a video game, but winning in the 2K League requires all five players working in sync, at all times. We did the math the other day and figured we must have logged somewhere around 500 scrimmage games over the last few months. You have to lock in and stay locked in for hours at a time, which isn’t as simple as it sounds. It was right around 100 degrees all week in Dallas, and in the room where we played our games, with dozens of people in there and the TV lights on, it was pushing 90 degrees, with no ventilation. (A power outage minutes into our first game didn’t exactly help, either.)

Right now, as I write this, I am completely drained. I am sitting in my hotel room in Dallas, my sweat-soaked clothes and hat from last night’s game in a pile over in the corner. We are a few hours away from our flight home to Memphis, and I’ve spent the last hour filling out spreadsheets to get my guy’s travel booked from Memphis to their actual homes. They each moved to the 901 for the last six months and gave it their everything. They were willing to sacrifice to be part of a bigger whole, and I will forever love each of them for that. There were people off the virtual court who also put in so much work, from Token helping us get ready for the draft, to Lexi, to Sam and Stef, to Corey, to our web team and our video team. From the top down, the Grizzlies organization has been unbelievably supportive of us. And I have to also say thanks to my wife and son, for being so understanding when I basically disappear each summer.

The last few months have been a blur. There’s so much happening outside of the 2K League world right now that I haven’t even had to time to fully process, from the Braves moving into first place to the start of the college football season to the loss of Charlie Watts. I’m looking forward to having time to do some of the things that I enjoy over the next few weeks.

I’m also looking forward to getting back some pieces of me (shouts to Ashlee Simpson). I’m tired of being too nervous to eat before our games, of having a constant low-grade headache on game days, of the perpetual stress of keeping this train on track, of having my mind so filled with things that need to be done that the thoughts spill over onto the Notes app on my phone, lest they be lost forever. We may have lost in the playoffs, but I have become an undisputed world champion at internalizing anxiety while projecting confidence, although this comes with consequences. (One trick I learned this season was instead of sucking on Ricola during games, Rolaids can be helpful.)

Of course, six months from now I’ll forget all of that and be ready to be back at it. Because at the end of it all, there is no feeling as amazing as winning, and there’s no feeling as awful as losing. We learn to live with the losing so that we can experience those blissful winning moments.

It’s hard to understand it’s over until it’s actually over, and it’s equally difficult to accept that we had a great season while we’re still in the shadow of our season-ending loss. At some point, hopefully soon, we’ll be able to laugh about some of the great times this season produced. Right now, we’re still in pain.

You play and you work and you compete, with everything that you’ve got.

Then it ends. Just like that.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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